A typical situation that may make you think that the router at the “edge” of your home network is dead is simply no connection to network or Internet resources. The same can also hold true for network connectivity devices like wireless access points, range extenders or HomePlug powerline devices. It is infact the first point of elimination by some people when they are dealing with an Internet connection that has started to play up.
In some cases, you may be dealing with the wall-wart power supply that may have just died out, usually due to a power spike. You may be able to check this out if you have either a multimeter or a spare working power supply with the same voltage and current output that belonged to other equipment to compare with.
On the other hand, erratic Internet or network activity like Wi-Fi clients taking longer than usual to associate with the router’s access point or Internet activity becoming “off again, on again” can indicate equipment that is on the way out. Similarly, the indicator lights on the device could he glowing in a static manner or flashing regularly rather than flickering. As well, you may have had to reset the router too many times either through power-cycling it or pressing the “reset” button.
In the case of network equipment that may serve a particular device, area or network segment, the behaviour may be noticed by network client devices connected to the equipment concerned.
For example, you may have had stellar Wi-Fi network performance in an area of your premises served by a Wi-Fi access point but it’s all gone downhill lately even though you could get good performance out of areas served by other Wi-Fi access points in the same premises. Or you may find things going wrong with the HomePlug AV powerline network segment when it work so smoothly before.
The increased unreliability with this kind of equipment is very similar to that point in a car’s life when it starts living at the mechanic’s workshop and drills a nice big hole in your wallet because of the increased amount of repair work that is needed.
It may crop up more readily with older or poorly-built low-end consumer equipment or in a house or neighbourhood where the mains power supply may be erratic. The erratic power supply can also be brought about due to circuit breakers including earth-leakage circuit breakers (safety switches) frequently tripping or fuses blowing frequently, or simply many whitegoods in operation at the same time.
The key issue to notice is that when a piece of network equipment in the network starts to cause the network connection or Internet service to become increasing unreliable, it could be an indicator to think of newer equipment and budget for better quality equipment.